Startracer, Starchild - Tale 18--> Doubt

Recap of Tale 17 . . .

"You can't stop me, Mother," Krystine told her, "and you know it. I am aware of the power I possess and I am aware of how to use it. There isn't a place you can put me that I can't escape from . . . but I don't know what category such strength puts me in. I am more than a child, but less than an adult. I am more than a Man, but less than an Elf. I am more than one of the Maiar, but less than one of the Valar. The time for war is fast approaching and I am ready."

"Fast approaching?" Haldir echoed. "You mean . . .?"

She nodded solemnly, her expression calm and accepting of the pre-planned future her mother was trying so hard to fight.

"He is coming."

Tale 18

Standing beside his adopted daughter, waiting for the embodiment of Evil to arrive, Haldir suddenly understood Marie's unwillingness to cooperate. This was the same child who had curled in his lap like a pet cat while he read the decaying scripts in the Library, the same child who taught him to play in the snow, the same child who showed him that emotions were not as much of a weakness as he had considered them to be.

How could he be so heartless as to let her march off to war and possibly even to her own death?

Eyes searching along the ground for any measure of help yet receiving none, he began unsurely, ". . . Krystine, I . . ."

Arms went around his ribs and she laid her head against his chest, closing her eyes and smiling warmly. "I will always love you, Papa, no matter what happens to me. Don't be afraid."

He sighed and returned the embrace, holding her smaller form tightly. She was so dear to him . . .

"I don't believe in destiny either, Papa," she told him softly. "I could have said no. I didn't have to do this. But I did because it was the right thing to do. Because if I didn't do it, no one else would. If I can fight now, even if I die, and protect some other little girl from going through what I have, then everything that I have done hasn't been in vain. It will all have been worth it."

He squeezed her. "That doesn't help."

"You are too hard on yourself, Papa," she scolded lightly. "You have done a wonderful job as a father, for never having had any kids of your own, and don't let Mom tell you otherwise. She wouldn't know one thing about your parenting skills because she was hardly ever around until I was twelve.

"She doesn't know how you taught me to read and write and skip and jump rope and climb trees and ride horses . . . And she doesn't know how you taught me to put out a grease fire when you made the stove catch---"

"Let's keep it that way, please."

She smiled. "You're the best daddy a girl could have and I wouldn't trade you for anything."

He dropped his head to kiss hers. "You'll always be my little girl."

In front of the house and behind the four younger Elves, who were standing some thirty feet back, Wraith roared. Krystine drew away from Haldir and kissed his cheek as a distant roar answered, moving into the center of the field. The black dragon stepped over the Elves and stood guardingly behind her mistress, staring up into the sky with emerald eyes.

A few minutes later a white dragon circled down, landing barely a dozen feet ahead and stirring tornadoes of loose grass. His owner slid to the earth and came forward, dressed in the same white trenchcoat as before.

"What is it that you want, Alpha?" Krystine prompted, her voice taking on the calm, weighted tone it had been earlier in the kitchen.

Jonathan stopped and held up his hands. "Peace, Omega. I have no intention of starting our battle here. I only came to tell you that we shall be fighting out in the plains, where there will be room for us."

She eyed him. "Very well."

"Well, that is all. I will take my leave of you."

"Please do."

He chuckled. "Ah. So you have accepted all aspects of yourself at last, have you?" He backed away casually but cautiously. "I shall have to watch my back, in that case."

"A good idea, though I would never sink to your level."

A laugh. "Omega, the things you have done---"

Rustling from the trees interrupted him, drawing everyone's attention to the forest growth nearby. A deer bolted into the open field and the loud crack of a rifle followed. The buck collapsed to the cold earth, dead before he hit, and a triumphant hunter waded through the brush to collect him. He grabbed the carcass by an antler and was beginning to drag it back into the trees when a sharp growl immediately preceded an immense shadow that fell over him. He turned and came face to scaled face with Wraith.

"Wraith, withdraw," Krystine commanded, causing the dragon to turn away and join Ghoul several dozen feet beyond Jonathan. To the hunter Krystine ordered, "Leave the deer."

The hunter looked from her to the pair of dragons whose green eyes glittered maliciously and had the guts to say, "I shot it."

She raised her left hand to him warningly, the omega symbol branded in her palm clearly visible. "You hunted that deer on property that does not belong to you. This property is mine, therefore the deer belongs to me. Leave it."

He took only one step back. In the next instant he had been thrown into a tree and was finding it difficult to breathe.

Krystine seemed to have not moved. Her hand was still raised and the omega symbol was still pitch black. However, her black leather trenchcoat and her long black hair floated leisurely on a wind unfelt by even the Elves.

The only one not surprised by this was Jonathan, who approached the hunter with a grin promising pain. "When Omega speaks, mortal, you obey." He put his right hand on the man's throat and pressed him into the tree, then reached down with his left hand and took the wrist of the hand that held the buck, tightening his grip on it in ominously. "Release the deer."

This time, the man complied. Still, Jonathan turned to Krystine. "Shall I?"

Krystine lowered her hand, breaking the stranglehold of her telekinesis on the man. "You know I don't condone pointless killing. Let him go."

Jonathan acquiesced, pouting. "You, my dear, are no fun."

"You can take his gun if you like."

"Really? Ooooh." Jonathan snatched the rifle from the hunter and moved to Krystine, examining it critically. He seemed displeased, because he took it at either end and bent it until the ends touched. "Look, a raindrop!"

Krystine humphed and flicked her fingers at it. It jumped from his hands and tied itself into a bow above them.

"Show-off. I could have done that."

"Then why didn't you?"

"I hadn't realized we were involved in a contest!"

The hunter took several steps forward. "That was my father's gun!"

Krystine snorted in reply. "Was," she confirmed, handing him the remains of the weapon.

"Why you---"

Wraith suddenly bolted forward, mouth wide. The hunter cried out in terror and dashed into the trees, the dragon on his heels.

Ghoul, meanwhile, stepped over to Krystine and licked the side of her face in greeting. She leaned away and closed the ghost dragon's mouth with a touch of her small hands. "Urgh! Alpha, your dragon's breath is absolutely rancid. What have you been feeding it?"

"You know, the usual. Skunks, possums, other roadkill."

She made a face and he laughed, much to her displeasure. "Were you not going to leave?"

"Not yet! I wish to see the miracle you are going to perform on that buck!"

"What miracle? I was going to make jerky out of it."

He grabbed either side of her neck and jaw in his hands and shook her head back and forth gently. "Omega, your cynicism amuses me."

She backhanded his hands from her. "Ugh. Don't touch me."

Completely unoffended by her coldness, as though he had grown used to it long ago, he obeyed.

Wraith, returning from her chase, placed the buck very carefully on the earth in front of Krystine, who knelt by its head. She placed her left hand an inch from the wound and extracted the bullet, which she gave to Jonathan, who fed it to Ghoul, who happily ingested the bloody metal.

"It's a wonder that beast isn't dead yet, considering the way you care for him," Krystine muttered, healing the gunshot wound with her hand.

"Cars are his favorite," Jonathan informed her cheerfully. "The antifreeze is like cake icing to him." Ghoul nodded, sitting down with a thump to scratch behind his ear with long talons.

"You should be arrested and put to death for cruelty to animals."

Jonathan melodramatically put a hand on his chest and said to her, "It is for the sake of animals that my pet eats vehicles."

Snorting, Krystine cupped the buck's head in her hands. A moment later the buck took a breath, blinked a few times, and scrambled shakily to its feet. Holding her right hand at the deer's chest reassuringly, she felt along its neck and spine to be sure it would be fine, then stepped away from it. It peered around in bewilderment, then lunged off through the field.

"Fifteen points. Magnificent specimen."

"Indeed. Would've looked good on a wall."

"Shut up, Alpha, and go away."

"As you wish, my lady. Your realm is your own. But remember--our battle is in three days!" He vaulted onto Ghoul's back and the white dragon shoved from the earth and disappeared to the east.

"Three days," Krystine murmured as the Elves joined her.

"Three days?!" Haldir echoed. "But . . . But that's your birthday!"

"His also," she replied absently. "The end of the old year and the beginning of the new. The end and the beginning--what our presences here represent. We shall start the battle midday on the thirty-first of December and it will end midday on the first of January. Only one of us shall survive." She began to walk deeper into the field. "Wraith! Attend!"

The black dragon followed along with a soft growl of compliance.

[Were we just . . . dismissed?] Elladan queried, offended.


Krystine spun the old globe around and around as she munched absently on a piece of pizza, which she had demanded be her diet for the days before the fight. "I . . . will be fighting for this . . . Why? Everyone hates each other--no one gets along. Why am I even bothering to do all this . . .?" She raised her voice slightly, seeking reassurance from the one person she trusted completely. ". . . Papa?"

"Hm?" Haldir murmured from behind the newspaper, oblivious to the doubt that had just consumed her.

"Why am I doing this?"

He lowered the newspaper and looked at her. "Because it is the right thing to do, as you said before."

She abandoned the globe and rolled onto her back. "But . . . nobody would care. They take the world for granted."

He sighed lightly and folded the newspaper, setting it aside as he rose from the chair and then knelt beside her. Placing his hand soothingly on her stomach, he smiled wryly and said gently, "No one ever promised that what you did would be appreciated."

She watched him as if searching for some sort of lie, then set the half-eaten piece of pizza down on a plate, wiped her fingers on a napkin, and sat up, leaning into him for comfort and clutching his arm tensely. "I don't want to die, Papa," she whispered desperately.

Haldir tightened his embrace and cooed softly. "Shh, love. No matter what may happen, everything will be all right, I promise."

They sat that way for quite some time, until there was a scrabble followed by a shout and a series of thumps. Krystine pulled away from Haldir and looked to the doorway just as a tiny mimic of Wraith and Ghoul bolted into the room as fast as its two little legs could carry it.

"Phantom!" she scolded sharply, scooping the small grey beast into her arms. It chirruped warmly and its long-taloned feet paddled at the air as it licked her chin like an excited dog.

The four younger Elves appeared in the doorway next and began to speak all at once to vindicate themselves.

"We do not know how she did it, Krystine---"

"I made sure to lock the door---"

"I took my eyes off her only for a second---"

"She just disappeared---"

"It's all right," Krystine interrupted. "It's not easy to watch a baby dragon; they get into a great deal of trouble very easily. And for the record, it's a he."

They blinked in reply, then just shrugged and accepted the new information without complaint.

Dirnees spotted the globe first and pointed. "What is that?"

"A globe," Krystine answered.

"What does it do?"

"It shows all the countries of the world."

Elrohir picked it up. "So you finally learned that Arda was round, did you? It certainly took you mortals long enough."

"We've known the world was round since the fourteen hundreds," Krystine snapped back.

". . . I do not see Valinor here," Elladan noted, spinning the globe slowly to view all of it.

So for the record, since I totally forgot to mention it (and because there was nowhere to put it when I remembered) so that everyone would be on the same page as me, the whole scene with the deer is meant to be indicative of Krystine's abilities. Unlike the kittens from Tale 13, who died a natural death, the deer was shot and killed in an unnatural manner. Thus Krystine's life-giving ability only works on people/things that have died unnaturally. This 'unnatural' aspect would even include Jonathan's ability to cause death with a mere touch of his hand.

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